How has this week been for you? It’s only a few days out from Christmas day! For many this means hectic shopping trips, last minute baking and madly cleaning the house before the big day.
Today’s book review is a nice quick one, but will hopefully get you in the Christmas spirit! The Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas.
What’s The Nutcracker about?
Special thanks to Sterling publishing company who does a fantastic introduction to the Nutcracker in my edition!
Sometimes, I find it useful to give some background information when reviewing classic stories. Especially when as interesting as this one!
The Nutcracker as you may, or may not know was originally a novel written by Prussian author Theodore Amadeus Hoffman (Awesome name isn’t it?). The story appeared alongside others of Hoffmans in 1819-1822.
The tale is much more widely known due to its adaptation by Alexandre Dumas in 1845. Duma’s version of the story was titled The History of a Nutcracker and was written for younger children. It was translated from Duma’s French into English over time, and gained popularity.
In the 1890s the story was proposed to be adapted into a ballet and debuted at the St Petersburg Imperial theatre in 1892.
Now, the story is a Christmas time classic and beloved by many!
What’s The Nutcracker really about?
It’s Christmas Eve two children, Mary and Fitz are being gifted their Christmas presents by their parents and godfather.
Mary is gifted a nutcracker and a doll whom she is enamoured with and believes to be special. When Fritz breaks the nutcracker, Mary’s tender heart insists on caring for the broken toy.
However once the clock strikes midnight the room changes and Mary finds herself involved in a battle with mice who are attacking her at the behest of the evil mouse king. Her nutcracker springs to life and a battle ensues.
The remainder of the story that follows involves Mary’s adventures with the nutcracker in a beautiful and fantastical world far distant to her Christmas parlour.
What I liked about The Nutcracker
I first experienced The Nutcracker in the form of the Barbie movie (That gives you an idea of my age!). I loved the magical world and story of The Nutcracker as well as it’s Christmas magic coating and watched that VCR many times.
While I was not expecting the novel to be the same as the Barbie version, or other film versions there was some surprising differences. This it turns out stems from the changes between novel and ballet.
The plot of the ballet and the novel differ, in particular when it comes to the names of the Characters. While the play often has the daughter of the family named Clara, in Duma’s story her name is Mary, Clara is the name of a doll Mary is gifted alongside the nutcracker. While her brother is still called Fitz, the children’s parents are scarcely named or have an active role in the story beyond the opening pages.
The story itself is a delight, perhaps an early forerunner of Pixar’s Toy Story Duma’s brings to life all of Mary’s toys in a convincing and charming manner.
Only 142 pages long this story is short and brimming with Christmas imagery, and magic. It reminds me of childhood, of the imaginings that happen when a child plays with a treasured toy. Of the excitement of receiving presents on Christmas.
What I didn’t like about The Nutcracker?
I honestly really enjoyed this story. I have attempted to read some of The Three Musketeers by Duma’s earlier this year and I find his prose very witty and enjoyable. I found The Three Musketeers to be a little too meandering in plot for my taste, so wondered if The Nutcracker would have that issue with momentum too. However it didn’t!
I’s a classic read that reminds me that even though it was written so long ago, humans haven’t really changed.
Insights into people are enjoyable and The Nutcracker offers some entertaining ones. In particular I found the concept of children dropping hints to their parents about presents, and the attitude of gratefulness at Christmas time to still be a salient one.
‘Let us guess what our parents intend to give us. For my part I told Mamma-but upon condition she would not scold- that Miss Rose, my doll, grows more and more awkward…’The Nutcracker – Alexandre Dumas
I’ve heard many people wishing recently to ‘get Christmas over with’ and perhaps that’s a sentiment you can relate to. It can be a time filled with stress and busy days.
I hope that this Christmas you have the opportunity to slow down. To return to that feeling of wonder and joy that you might last have experienced on Christmas Eve as a child.
I hope you are able to experience some of the joy and peace of the seasons. Be it under the Christmas tree, a treasured gift or the people you spend time with. My Christmas plans involve celebrating with loved ones the day ‘On which the Redeemer Jesus was born’. (Duma’s phrased Christmas that way and I loved it!)
If you haven’t already, consider picking up a copy of The Nutcracker to read yourself or to your children. My edition is the Barnes and Noble pocketbook edition and it’s lovely! The cover is very pretty and bright.
Lastly, I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all my readers of this blog and my freelance writing! 2019 has been an adventure, and as the last few weeks of the year come to a finish I look forward to what next year will bring.
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